The start of a new semester is hectic and exciting. It evokes memories of semesters past, and for freshmen, memories of Welcome Week-induced nerves have probably resurfaced. Most students’ first week in New York City is strange and overwhelming. In retrospect, many students may remember that week as being afflicted by one specific feeling: anonymity. This anonymity can be a daunting feature of an undergraduate career at NYU, but it has its silver lining.
To have visited New York City is not to have lived in it. Before leaving home, exclamations of “Wow, that’s a big city!” could be easily countered with “I know, Nana.” We didn’t know, though, and it was impossible to truly comprehend this city’s size until that first week of school. Many students often feel overwhelmed not only by NYU’s more than 25,000 undergraduate students vying for the same recognition but also by the 8 million people sharing their city. These staggering figures create an illusion of anonymity, and lead to the realization that with so many people around, no one would really notice if you never left your dorm room again. We pass hundreds of strangers on the sidewalk each day, and it’s easy to think that not one of them cares where you’re going or who you are. Job and internship interviews reinforce this with relentless efficiency. Even within NYU, students often feel that there will always be someone more qualified to steal the spot they’re competing for.
After a short time though, we learn that this feeling is not productive. We should be trying our hardest to transform that Welcome Week-induced, anxious energy into power and motivation. NYU can certainly motivate us. With more than 300 clubs and organizations, there is truly a place here for everyone. NYU subdivides its substantial student body by creating opportunities that shrink this city into
Outside our community, the city rages on, and the people we pass on the sidewalk each day still never notice us. But with this anonymity can come a certain drive, one specific to New York City alone. NYU students strive to be noticed in a city full of eight million people. We long to be heard among thousands of others trying to say the same thing. Students at this university possess an astonishing ambition, which pushes us past the more qualified, more impressive candidates for positions and recognition.
This ambition inarguably leads to many failures, but our acceptance of failure makes us tougher than other college students and more prepared for adulthood. The anonymity that once enveloped us can translate into a fierce independence. It creates an unstoppable urge to find your place in this school and city and to be recognized for who you are, what you know and all that you can accomplish.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Jan. 30 print edition. Email Emily Fagel at [email protected]